At least four people were killed after a massive fire broke out at Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC)’s gas-processing facility in Mumbai on Tuesday morning. The incident once again puts the spotlight on the frequent accidents in the oil and gas industry.
The four people — including three Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel — were killed after a massive fire broke out in the storm-water drainage at ONGC’s gas processing facility at Uran in Navi Mumbai. Three other CISF personnel were injured.
“A fire was reported at about 7.15 am at storm-water drainage unit of the Uran plant possibly because of a gas leak. By 9.30 am the fire was brought under control,” Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said in New Delhi.
Tuesday’s fatalities add to a long list of industrial deaths reported in multiple accidents at various state-run oil and gas companies in the last few years. Data sourced from a right to information (RTI) request filed with the oil ministry suggests at least 87 lives were lost between 2015 and March 2019 at state-run facilities.
This is the second time this year that ONGC has reported a fatal fire accident. In March, ONGC reported a fire incident at its Ahmedabad facility which claimed two lives. For the calendar year 2018, it reported 10 industrial deaths, according to the RTI data.
When asked about Tuesday’s fire incident, a senior ONGC official said the company is in the process of finding out the reasons for this tragedy. The victims were trying to check a gas leakage at the site early in the morning.
The incident also led to a supply shortage of compressed natural gas (CNG) and piped natural gas (PNG) in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). In its first statement on Tuesday, Mahanagar Gas (MGL) said that gas supply to its city gate station at Wadala was affected. However, in a second statement, in the afternoon, the company said that supply has been partially restored.
“The gas supply to MGL’s city gate station at Wadala was affected due to a major fire at ONGC’s gas processing facility at Uran this morning,” MGL stated. It further said, “However, the gas supply to MGL’s city gate station at Wadala has been partially restored and the gas supply at various CNG stations in Mumbai and to industrial and commercial customers across MGL’s network is getting progressively normalised.”
Hirak Dutta, head safety and advisor at Nayara Energy and former executive director of Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD), stated accidents occur despite international safety standards. “We must adopt more artificial intelligence for safety-related operations. The Indian oil and gas sector is already following international safety standards. Still some accidents are occurring. This ONGC incident may be related to some leakage. In such instances, the immediate effort is for finding out the exact cause of the accident,” he said.
State-run refiner Indian Oil Corporation is another oil company with a high number of fatalities. IOC reported 18 fatalities in FY18, and 14 in FY19, and more than half the victims were contract workers. In August last year, a unit of Bharat Petroleum Corporation’s (BPCL) Mumbai refinery caught fire on following a blast, injuring at least 21.